Research Report

Rent Control and the Availability of Affordable Housing in the District of Columbia

This study empirically examines the continued need for rent stabilization in the District of Columbia. The study data base includes current information about renter households and their housing circumstances; housing providers and the physical and financial condition of their properties; housing stock losses and additions; and the operation of the rent control program, housing code enforcement, and the Tenant Assistance Program. The most severe and widespread problem currently confronting District of Columbia renters is a shortage of units affordable for low-income and moderate-income households. Rent control is neither the cause nor the complete solution for the problem of housing affordability. Despite the rent reductions attributable to the existing control system, 43 percent of all renters in the District of Columbia pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, and about 10 percent pay more than 75 percent of their income for housing. Rent control alone cannot ensure the availability of decent and affordable rental housing for all of the District's residents. A comprehensive rental housing strategy for the District of Columbia requires more direct measures, including programs to supplement the rents low-income and moderate-income tenants can afford to pay, to preserve existing low-rent properties, and to induce the production of additional low-cost and moderate-cost rental units. Recommendations are offered for improving the existing rental control system.